Irish Song-Craft and Metrical Practice Since 1600

Author: Blankenhorn, Virginia S.
This work is a systematic analysis and classification of Irish accentual verse-metres. It will interest linguists and students of metre, as well as ethnomusicologists studying the context of Irish traditional song, and musicologists studying the historical development of European song-forms. An assessment of previous contributions to the study of Irish verse-practice is followed by a general survey of metrical scholarship, which in turn lays the groundwork for a metrical theory of Irish accentual verse. Space is devoted to a phenomenologically-based discussion of the role of rhythm in spoken Irish and its implications for verse-structure. The heart of the work consists of a taxonomical survey of Irish accentual verse-types, in which the principal criterion for inclusion in a given category is the number of stressed syllables in a line. Following chapters deal with stanzaic and supra-stanzaic structure and verse-ornament, the musical context of verse, the ways in which musical metre differs from verse metre, and the implications of such differences for a system of versification primarily transmitted through a musical medium.


“…[This book’s] main virtue is that it goes back to basics, and sets out to build up a comprehensive theory of the working of accentual verse from first principles. …[I]t starts from a thorough examination of a widely based representative sample of texts…[and] makes linguistics, musicology and aesthetics bed down in a structured way in the service of poetry. Its fundamental innovation is to rearrange the hierarchy of poetic effects so that the accentual patterns of phrases and individual lines are seen as the starting point…, and ornamental and stanzaic patterns as part of the poetic superstructure. …[It] provides a rigorous, linguistically and musically sophisticated, and above all practical approach to the totality of Gaelic non-syllabic verse….[It] may fairly be said to fill a large gap in scholarly understanding….Anyone whose work touches on Irish metrics will have to take this work into consideration. It is in the fullest sense a pioneering and groundbreaking work.” -- William Gillies, University of Edinburgh

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface; Foreword
1. ‘Tórna’ and later Editors (Rosg, Laoidh Fiannuíochta, Caoineadh, Amhrán)
2. Metrical Models
3. The Rhythm of Irish Verse
4. Two- and Three-Stress Lines
5. The Phrasal Construction of Irish Verse
6. Four-Stress Line Types
7. Five-Stress Line Types
8. Six-Stress Line Types (Rócán, Crosántacht)
9. Seven-Stress Line Types (Ochtfhoclach)
10. Eight-Stress and Longer Lines
11. Stanzaic and Supra-Stanzaic Forms (Ceangal, Trí rann agus amhrán)
12. Ornamentation
13. The Musical Context of Verse (popular song, lament-music, prayers, 17th-century Munster verse; Ossianic lays)
Appendices; Bibliography; Indices